What American Pickers can Teach You about Buying Handmade

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A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by the lovely Meagan Visser to do a guest post on her blog. And because Meagan is a pns reader and is also doing some pretty great things with her biz, I quickly agreed. The topic I was asked to write about was the importance of buying handmade. And I am really, dare I say it, happy with what I wrote.

So I thought I would share it here as well, for those that didn’t catch it on Megan’s blog…

Recently, I was watching an episode of American Pickers and something about it struck me. Mike and Frank (the owners of a small antique shop) are in the business of buying low and selling high. They buy antique oddities, furniture, car parts, and more from people across the country and then resell them at a markup in their shop back in Iowa. And actually, their tagline is “We’ll buy anything we think can make a buck on.”

So anyway, what struck me about the episode was that they went to a man’s house who was big into scuba. He had tons of scuba gear scattered throughout his home. Some antiques, mixed with some actually usable equipment. And the three of them got to talking about how scuba diving was something that he use to really enjoy doing with his son, before his son was in a diving accident and became paralyzed. It was a pretty touching story. And all the money that thet dad made that day, he mentioned, would be going towards his son’s medical bills, and for assistance for his son in the future. So after they heard this story, Frank and Mike immediately bought an antique scuba helmet from the man for $5,000, which the audience finds out later was the actually retail worth of the helmet.

Now remember, Frank and Mike are in the business of “making a buck”, yet they purchased this helmet anyway, knowing there was little (if any) room for profit. So why did they do it? Well, they didn’t really say. Maybe it was a mistake on their part? But I’d like to think that they just wanted to help out another human being, by showing support for him and his son in some way. It didn’t really cost them anything to do it. They didn’t make any money. But they’ll most likely be able to resell the helmet for what they purchased it for. So, all around it was still a win-win scenario.

That’s what buying handmade is like. It’s a win-win!

When you buy something that is handmade by an individual, whether you realize it or not, you are showing your support for another human being. You are saying, I’d rather buy this original oil painting from you and wait for you to ship it to me than head down to Rooms to Go and pick up a piece today that is twice as large and half the cost.

Why? Because of the quality. Because of the time, thought, and effort that went into your original work of art. The blood, sweat, and tears (figuratively speaking) that you went through to ultimately call this work “finished”. And most importantly, because I would rather give the money to you and help support a small business like my own, than to a corporation with mass-produced products that will never even know my name.

This kind of support, from one individual to another, is exactly what we need.

Especially during these (still) tough economic times. We need to support each other. Lift each other up. And help small businesses who are trying to better the community you and your children will live in for years to come.

Now this is really just a one of many more reasons why it is important to buy handmade. But it’s a good start.

So, tell me: why do you buy handmade?

Post your thoughts in the comments.

image above antique skeleton key collection (via Country Living)

19 comments | Click here to reply

YES. This, exactly. It’s not just the physical object you’ve just bought — it’s what (or who) your money is going to support.

Kate | May 3rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Absolutely Kate!

papernstitch | May 3rd, 2011 at 2:45 pm

My husband is a hand-maker, and I run the business side. We are passionate about supporting other handmade businesses if for no other reason than to practice what we preach.

I can also tell you that I might spend 4 times more on a necklace at a craft show than I would spend on one at a Big Box chain, but I also wear it with pride, love to share the stories of the makers I bought from, and feel better in those pieces of jewelry than in anything else I wear.
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Meghan | May 3rd, 2011 at 3:33 pm

What a great team Meghan. I love husband and wife teams (since Jeff and I are one too). And you bring up a great point- practicing what we preach is so important! Thanks for stopping by.
-Brittni

papernstitch | May 3rd, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Great article! I choose handmade because I know that someone’s time and love was put into making (insert awesome craft, art, etc., here). Not mass produced in a factory… It means more to me to know someone’s hands made it. I know that I put my love, effort, and a piece of myself into everything that I make… I appreciate that in the craft of others.

In terms of cost, I would much rather support small businesses with my money to help them grow and develop. I think we need to support each other, especially in these times of technology and the big chain stores before “handmade” is lost to future generations.

Wow long comment 😉 sorry lol.
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Kelly Rowe | May 3rd, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Thanks Kelly Rowe. Great reason, “I choose handmade because I know that someone’s time and love was put into making…In terms of cost, I would much rather support small businesses with my money to help them grow and develop”. YES!
-Brittni

papernstitch | May 3rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I LOVE this analogy! The personal connection is so important in all aspects of life but especially with handmade goods. Working in retail has taught me people DO like to hear the stories behind things, where they come from, how they were made.

Mallory | May 3rd, 2011 at 6:59 pm

You are so right Mallory. People ARE interested in the stories. And that’s why it is so important for makers to share them (the stories).
-Brittni

papernstitch | May 3rd, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I have an entire theory on why the handmade is sustainable and it’s largely based on this – people value the handmade for the social ties that are reincorporated into our consumption patterns. I mean, when you think about it – there is no value or attachment when you buy a shirt from Target. You’ll probably just throw it out and buy something more when it goes out of style, but not when it’s handmade because you value it more, then keep it longer and dispose less! Buying handmade is sustainable consumption and is part of building sustainable communities, granted a small part right now, but it has a lot of potential to make a big difference.

My longer version of the theory, still in its living version, is on my blog — http://ofcatsandcrafts.blogspot.com/p/eco-craft-theory.html

Amina | May 3rd, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Amina. And for the link. I have another post about buying handmade that will be going up next week and I might be including a little link to your post.
-Brittni

papernstitch | May 3rd, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Brittni, I love this post! This past Christmas, I tried to buy mostly handmade and/or local for this very reason. I’m willing to pay a few extra dollars to give a unique gift while supporting my favorite small business owners! Thanks for sharing!! Xo, Katie
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Katie Bright | May 3rd, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Thank you Katie. Appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts!
-Brittni

papernstitch | May 4th, 2011 at 12:40 am

I deeply share the reasons you mentioned to buy handmade things, support another person, buy a unique product specially made ​​by the artist, designer or artisan… is invaluable.
Personally, I buy things made ​​by hand as a way to help strengthen local identities, as people who make them are in certain social, historical, political contexts, in cultures that must be recognized and valued.

Mercedes Galarce | May 4th, 2011 at 9:19 am

I love that story about the helmet. I’m so glad that people are willing to help others just because.

I buy/ make handmade because there’s a great feeling and a sense of pride knowing things I’m buying/ making are durable, with all the recalls from big corporations happening almost daily. When I buy handmade I am buying into a community people just trying to “do right” by the world and mankind. Their personal struggles to support their families and their dreams is something worth spending a little extra cash on.

An aside on Meghan’s comment about stories. I was holding a garage sale last weekend and selling a few things we didn’t use anymore. One woman bought something she said “I don’t have a place for it” but wanted it purely because I told her the story behind the object (something I had picked up in Ukraine on one of my trips).

Thank you for the inspiring post, Brittni!

margaret | May 4th, 2011 at 9:21 am

Because handmade comes beautifully wrapped and bursting with the artist`s creativity and passion. Machine made will never compare for me.

Cat Cake | May 7th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

This was wonderfully written! Thanks for sharing!
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Hannah S. | May 7th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

[…] American Pickers Can Teach You About Buying Handmade Papernstitch The importance of buying handmade is all about establishing a connection between the maker and the […]

Hello Craft » Directors’ Picks | May 9th, 2011 at 4:58 am

Great post, so true! I shared on facebook. I wish everyone would consider handmade first 🙂

Andrea | June 15th, 2011 at 11:58 am

Handmade makes me feel good! I know that more effort went into the product. The last handmade gift someone gave me, was a lace fabric wedding album. I love it! I definitely got my use out of it. It made me feel great!

Kim Harris | February 4th, 2012 at 6:58 pm
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